Lon asked me: “So… what exactly IS Wyrd? Does your tradition have a particular take on it?”
Wyrd and Orlog go together so tightly that for a while I got swapped which was which, and I’m still only mostly sure I get it when it comes to their historical use. Here’s my modern understanding, which is more or less what I teach:
In practice, Wyrd is not so much what you might call raw “Energy” itself (in the spiritual sense – Chi, Ashe, there are many variations on the theme) as the combination of energy and form that is All That May Be, which naturally includes All That Is, and most importantly, connects any given thing that Is with any other given thing that Is. So Wyrd can be viewed as a knotted web, as woven cloth, as a growing tree or branching vines, as water flowing, or drawn from a well, as the connections between people, as an individual’s life path, and those are all correct.
Orlog is Cosmic Law, the limitations on What Is. This includes but is not limited to the Natural Laws of physics, especially Cause Begets Effect. But it also includes, not social laws themselves, but the fact that social laws and consequences exist and are limiting factors on our options. So Orlog, including what is already true and has already happened, serves to limit Wyrd down to what actually CAN be, and then we are responsible for choosing from there. But we can’t be responsible for that which was never in our control to begin with. Without Orlog, Wyrd would flow entirely randomly, I suppose.
Heathens sometimes describe people as having “Strong” or “Weak” Wyrd, by which we generally mean beneficial or adverse luck, but I think in a modern sense that’s not quite the right idiom, because it obscures the effects of both circumstance and personal responsibility.
On the one hand, only some people have the spirit sense needed to do direct wyrdworking (that is, a magical practice of changing one’s Wyrd – detangling knots, removing obstacles, blocking off bad paths, depending on the metaphor one uses), and frankly that’s probably a good thing. On the other hand, plenty of people do a certain amount of natural wyrdworking just moving through the world the way they do. But neither of those necessarily have anything to do with what we mean by Strong or Weak Wyrd.
Strong Wyrd is more often associated with people whose lives go smoothly and successfully. In modern idiom, Strong Wyrd might be more accurately described as Orlog Privilege – what Can happen, as shaped by what has already happened. In other words, Intersectionality addresses how the sociopolitical aspects of Orlog affect an individual’s Wyrd.
That seems reasonable to me, when we equate the flow of Wyrd with Luck, because it IS a form of luck to be born to one or more forms of privilege. (That is, if we don’t assert that reincarnation happens only within family lines, and don’t apply the Eastern concept of Karma.) It’s also true that in many cases hard work can build better circumstances to some degree, which is also why hard work can be perceived as building stronger Wyrd.
I do think this concept of Strong Wyrd may be part of what lead to the Protestant Work Ethic in later Germanic cultures. Construing Good Works and material wealth signs of Grace does look a lot like considering social success and material wealth signs of spiritual strength. But I do think that separating Wyrd from Orlog clarifies something that the Protestant Work Ethic obscures – that we can only choose options we actually have in the first place.
P.S. Have a couple of my favorite articles indirectly related to this, that turn out not to have enough on Wyrd and Orlog directly, but lots to say about adjacent concepts: